Last night I received an email from an online comic site that is interested in reviewing The Elite Forces Division. I checked out their website and was impressed (I don’t want to display their name until I get their permission). I was asked the following question:
What are your thoughts about creating just a pure graphic novel opposed to an illustrated novel?
This was my response:
I considered doing a graphic novel when I started all of this, in fact, all of my first work was for the original graphic novel that I was producing. I decided against it after I started studying the statistics on them. While they are VERY lucrative, when successful, the cost is high when it comes to creation. I am NOT trying to knock anyone that’s doing them, I’m just experimenting with a different path.
Graphic novels are time and energy intensive during the creation process and the ‘sell-ability’ of them is difficult because of the immersion factor.
Now-a-days… the standard comic buyer is feeling the pinch of the recession and walking into the store buying mainly their favorite well-known comics. With limited funds, they are EXTREMELY hesitant to experiment with an unknown title. Even worse, a title that they will enjoy for a short amount of time. This goes back to the dilemma of immersion.
Well-known heroes and titles have ample amounts of history so the immersion factor is low-risk. One can always find back issues to learn more about a well-established character.
New titles and new characters are NOTORIOUS for higher prices and death after issue #3. They are usually higher than the standard comics or graphic novels, because the creators hope to regain their costs and to make profits in as short of time as possible with a smaller amount of sales. The ones with a somewhat strong backing usually make it to issues 3 to 5 before running out of finance to fund anymore issues… this is mostly with comics, not graphic novels.
Because this pattern is SO widespread, many comic buyers stray away from independents until they make it deep into their series. With 5 to 10 issues on the shelf, the title becomes worthy of a test drive especially with limited funds.
Graphic novels function in a similar fashion. The big titles and consistent titles rule the sales figures every month. The number one challenge is the immersion factor. A comic takes 5 minutes to flip through. A graphic novel with 50 or so pages takes 15 to 30 minutes to get through. The standard price for a Graphic Novel is $12.99 to about $24.99. In order to make a dent against the big boys, a new-title GN (Graphic Novel) would have to give the buyer more than the norm in order to get their money; this, in business, is known as ‘Quality’.
In other words, you would have to sell yours for cheaper OR offer more pages allowing a longer and deeper immersive experience.
The perfect example of this was the new GN title, ‘Tribes’ which was released last year which sold 400+ copies the first month and made over $11,000. This was a success by any means, ESPECIALLY for an independent title. He did this by making his GN over 100-pages. He had to sacrifice MORE than the norm just to have a chance for his product to be purchased.
This is what led me to the illustrated book. Writing is far less labor intensive than drawing. Less art gains more attention per picture and saves more money and time because of the extended processes of penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering.
My product will compete against books instead of comics and graphic novels. As a book, the pictures count as a bonus to the product, hence increasing a buyer’s perceived quality by purchasing it. As a book, the immersion process is not only extended beyond a day, but the buyer would be purchasing an entire story arc that allows them a chance to get to know the characters as well as my story.
The downside..? This is RISKY!!! I would not tell anyone else to do it. Comic readers are NOT the same as book readers! Comic readers tend to like quick paced stories with FAR more action than novel readers; who want to know the amount of hairs on the main character’s chin! This forced me to adjust my writing to something FAST and impactful while staying away from looong drawn out sunsets and crap!!
Another downside, is that this is NOT a path well-traveled. The industry has been split severely between these two ‘cultures’ and no one has challenged this in a long time. Most storytellers instinctively believe that you have to either tell your story as a comic/graphic novel… OR as a book. Our minds are closed to the thought of merging these two paths.
This is the path that I chose and I’m honestly NOT expecting to jump out the box selling millions with fans screaming my name while a blimp passes by flashing my book title. I’m simply trying to tell my story in a different way.